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What is a polysynthetic language?



A polysynthetic language is a language in which words tend to consist of several morphemes.

Example (Yup’ik Inuit)
  • tuntussuqatarniksaitengqiggtuq
  • tuntu -ssur -qatar -ni -ksaite -ngqiggte -uq
  • reindeer -hunt -FUT -say -NEG -again -3SG:IND
  • 'He had not yet said again that he was going to hunt reindeer.'

    Eliza Orr, cited by Payne, T. 1997a 27–28


    Here are the two kinds of polysynthetic languages:


    The opposite of a highly polysynthetic language is a highly isolating language.

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    Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

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